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10 Phenomenal Exercises for Joint Pain
If you suffer from arthritis or joint pain, you may have heard your friends or even your doctor tell you that exercise is a great way to alleviate joint pain. But you know that exercise can be painful for your joints and exercising is often easier said than done. While it is true that some exercises can be painful, especially if you have arthritis, not every exercise has to be so strenuous on your joints. Here are 10 exercises that are great for joint pain, and some tips on how to ease into an exercise routine that will offer long lasting pain relief.
Joint pain, at some level, is almost inevitable as we age. Certain factors that contribute to joint pain - such as old injuries, osteoarthritis, and aging - cannot be helped. Other factors - such as repetitive motion, poor posture, and inactivity - can be changed, modified, or reversed to alleviate joint pain. Many times individuals who suffer from osteoarthritis will become less active due to pain, and the inactivity will actually worsen the pain of arthritis rather than alleviate it. When it comes to joint pain, simply remaining active will go a long way towards alleviating symptoms of arthritis. Here are a few simple exercises that will help get you started and get you moving!
- Walking - It is nearly impossible to get through the day without walking at all, but too little walking can contribute to joint pain. If you are not walking, it means you are sitting too much, which can lead to lower back and hip pain. If you don't walk much, don't start out by walking a mile the first day. Slowly increase your steps throughout the day. Don't sit for long periods of time without taking a few minutes to get up and walk around. The more often you walk and the more steps you take, the less pain you will experience while walking in the future.
- Household Chores - Everyday activities, such as raking, mowing the lawn, vacuuming, or weeding can help with joint pain. These everyday activities require strength, agility and a variety of movements that can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding the joints, alleviating joint pain. Gardening is another activity that can be especially beneficial to individuals with arthritis in their hands because of the manual dexterity it requires. If you also suffer from knee pain, kneeling in a garden may not be an option for you, so try gardening in a raised garden bed to avoid kneeling and bending over too much.
- Stretching - Stretching helps to alleviate muscle pain and tightness, as well as to increase flexibility, movement, and range of motion which, in turn, will help to alleviate joint pain. There is some debate over whether or not stretching just before or after exercise is beneficial to you, but you don't have to be getting ready to exercise in order to stretch. Stretching should be a regular part of your daily routine, especially as we age. There is a variety of stretches you can do from a seated or standing position to target every muscle group. Talk to your doctor about stretches that can help you.
Prolonged sitting causes joint pain for a number of reasons. The seated position and inactivity can lead to hip and lower back pain, but another contributing factor is the loss of core strength from muscles in your abdominal, lower back and hip areas. This loss of core strength can have a ripple effect on other joints and muscle groups as it affects balance and coordination, which can put undue stress on lower body joints. The following exercises are good for improving strength, balance, coordination, and core strength, which will improve your ability to take part in other exercises as well as help to alleviate joint pain.
- Yoga - Yoga is a low impact exercise that can help improve coordination, balance, strength, flexibility and range of motion. Yoga combines stretching and body poses with breathing and meditation exercises which help to improve positional body awareness. The combination of muscle strengthening, increased flexibility and body awareness help to greatly improve balance. Yoga offers classes for beginners as well as experts, making it a great exercise to grow with as you develop your exercise routine.
- Tai Chi - Tai Chi is a moderate, slow motion exercise where your body is in constant motion, flowing from one posture to the next. Like Yoga, Tai Chi is a low impact exercise that is easy on the joints and muscles while improving strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. Tai Chi also offers classes aimed at all skill levels.
- Pilates - Pilates focuses on improving core muscle strength of the abdomen, lower back and hips. Positions and movements in Pilates use the arms and legs to help control the core muscles, so the extremities will benefit from Pilates exercises as well. Pilates is another low impact exercise that is appropriate for all fitness levels.
Increasing Strength, Lowering Impact
A key component to any exercise aimed at alleviating joint pain, especially in the lower extremities, is being a low impact exercise. High impact exercises, such as running or jumping, put a lot of pressure on the joints. While these types of exercise often improve strength more rapidly, they do so at a cost. While Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates are great exercises to build strength and flexibility, they do not offer much of an aerobic workout, which can help improve your overall cardiovascular fitness. People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk of heart disease and can greatly benefit from aerobic exercises. Here are some exercises with increased cardiovascular intensity that are still low impact on your joints.
- Water Aerobics - Water aerobics incorporates many of the high intensity exercises of a typical aerobics class, but is low impact due to the weight displacement of the water. Exercises performed in chest deep water have 75% less impact on your joints than doing the same exercises on land. Water aerobics has the added benefit of strength training through typical movements due to the water resistance. You do not have to be an expert swimmer to participate in water aerobics since it is in only chest deep water, but deep water aerobics are offered for more advanced swimmers.
- Swimming - Lap swimming does require you to be an expert swimmer, but it is a fantastic low impact exercise that will improve strength and flexibility, as well as aerobic endurance. Water exercises allow for freer movement and greater range of motion due to the weightlessness of being in water which can help alleviate joint pain.
- Cycling - Pedaling a bike has a much lower impact on the knees and ankles than running or walking, making it a great aerobic and strengthening exercise for the lower body. However, it could be hard to grip the handlebars if you suffer from pain in the hands or fingers. If that is the case, a stationary bike or an elliptical machine might be a better option.
One of the key aspects of all the aerobic exercises listed above is that they all offer strength training exercise as well. As you strengthen your muscles, it puts less strain on the joints. The muscles do most of the heavy lifting which allows the joints to operate with less pain. When doing strength training exercises, or any of these exercises, make modifications as needed to alleviate pain and avoid injury as you build up the muscles and gain flexibility.
- Weight Bearing Exercise - Weight bearing exercise includes exercise that builds muscle using free weights, machines, or resistance bands. Begin gradually by using low resistance or low weight so as not to put too much stress on the joints. If you experience joint pain while doing weight bearing exercise, that is a good indication you need to lower the weight. Once you find the right weight, start slowly and gradually build up the intensity. You'll want to target different muscle groups to avoid overuse injury and to strengthen all your different muscle groups. Do two to three sets of eight to twelve repetitions for each exercise and do this two or three days a week.
Having joint pain doesn't mean you can't be active. In fact, being active is one of the best things to do for joint pain. As the old saying goes, "use it or lose it," so stay fit and stay active! If you are interested in beginning an exercise program, but don't know where to start, WE Care of Community Care Physicians, P.C. can help. They offer personal training, group exercise classes, such as yoga, and can create a medically supervised exercise plan that suits your specific needs. Follow the link to learn more about the WE Care Fit Program here.
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